The 14th stage of the race promised much at one point, but ended up being something of a black day for the Saunier Duval Prodir team. David Cañada worked hard to get into an important six-man break and looked good to chase a stage win, but was one of three riders to crash heavily 40 kilometres from the end.
The fall came when the riders went around a 90 degree right turn, with melting tar and an uneven road surface causing Cañada, Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis) and Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile) to come down. Kessler and Verbrugghe both went over the safety barrier and while the German was relatively unhurt and able to continue, the Belgian suffered bad cuts and broke his right femur.
Cañada was also badly hurt, hitting the road and breaking his collarbone. The Tour de Catalunya winner was therefore forced to abandon the race, going from a potential stage-winning situation to the ambulance in a matter of minutes.
Team-mate David de la Fuente tried to defend his mountains jersey on the final climb, the second category Col de la Sentinelle. However he blew up and was dropped. Although chief mountains rival Michael Rasmussen was fifth at the top, De La Fuente had enough in hand to retain the jersey by seven points and so will get to wear the famous polka-dot jersey onto l’Alpe d’Huez on Tuesday.
Like De La Fuente, double Giro champion Gilberto Simoni and David Millar both lost time. Simoni has a sore throat, thought to have been caused by the dramatic drop of temperature after the stages due to hotel air conditioning. David Millar is also suffering from the same symptoms.
In all, it was a tough day for the team. However they will have time to remotivate themselves on Monday’s rest day and aim to come out fighting again on Tuesday.